2018-01 From the President: Support for UMRA growth

At its November meeting the Board began sifting and prioritizing the multitude of suggestions that emerged from the table conversations at October’s “town hall” luncheon meeting. This process will continue through the winter and into spring.


In response to a show-of-hands poll at the luncheon, a substantial majority of participants indicated support for more aggressive UMRA growth. Several steps are already in progress to increase both the size of the membership and the range of activities offered to members.


  • Luncheon venue: Most recent luncheons have sold out, sometimes only a few days after newsletter publication, and the town hall conversation reinforced the Board’s sense that space limitations of Campus Club ABC have become a serious drag on UMRA’s development. A new Luncheon Venue Task Force, chaired by President-elect Jerry Rinehart, is now looking systematically at other possibilities.
  • Luncheon rental costs: We are grateful to the Provost’s office for clearing away one obstacle to any move from the Campus Club. Because UMRA is separately incorporated and not part of the University’s accounting infrastructure, it appeared we were subject to higher rental rates. The Provost’s office has agreed, however, that because UMRA’s mission is so closely aligned with the success of the University, it is appropriate for the retirees association to have its own account within the U’s billing and payments system. This makes us eligible for internal rates.
  • Expanded activities:  The Social Activities Committee continues to experiment with offerings beyond the traditional luncheon/speaker/workshop days. In addition to piggybacking on several Campus Club events, the committee has programmed a St. Paul skyway tour later this month. If this is successful, other local tours or visits will likely follow.
  • Communications:  The Communications Task Force, chaired by former president Jean Kinsey, submitted its report to the Board in early January. Their list of recommendations includes many measures for UMRA to better communicate with its members, with potential U of M retirees, with the U of M administration/staff/faculty, and with the larger community. Watch for more in future newsletters.
  • Fundraising:  Two recent meetings with staff of the U of M Foundation have yielded encouraging results. The Foundation is willing to serve as a 501(c)3 conduit for appropriate UMRA fundraising efforts and has already begun helping us identify potential funding sources whose criteria appear to align nicely with UMRA. In the next few months we will establish priorities for funding—which could well include one-time infusions of money to kick-start some of our expansion measures.
  • Professional Development Grants for Retirees: Given that the U’s three-year funding commitment for this popular UMRA program expires this year, we were relieved to learn recently that the Provost’s office is committed to continuing the program.

— Chip Peterson, UMRA President 2017–18